Emin Huseynov is a 35-year-old Azerbaijani journalist and chairman of the country’s leading media rights group, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS). He has long been at the forefront of promoting freedom of expression and free media in his home country of Azerbaijan and is a founder of independent TV station Objective TV and several important human rights initiatives. Huseynov was forced into hiding August 2014, amidst widespread repression of journalists and human rights activists, and had been sheltered in the Swiss embassy in Baku until 12 June 2015. His application for political asylum was approved four months later.
Huseynov founded the IRFS on 3 May – World Press Freedom Day – in 2006, along with fellow former Turan News Agency reporter Sarvan Rizvanov. The IRFS has partnered with major human and media rights organisations in order to publicise instances of violence and repression against journalists throughout Azerbaijan. The organisation provided journalists with legal assistance, investigated attacks against them and produced several reports on the press restrictions in Azerbaijan beore being effectively shut down by the government.
The Azerbaijan government’s attacks on civil society, journalists and human rights defenders have intensified in the last few years. In June 2014, Huseynov’s bank account was frozen. As his colleagues and fellow activists were imprisoned and beaten, and having been severely beaten himself in 2008, Huseynov feared for his own safety.
On 6 August, Huseynov tried to leave the country for medical help in Turkey but was turned away at the border, and on 8 August, his colleagues told him that IRFS’ headquarters were under surveillance. The office was raided shortly thereafter, and Huseynov sought protection at the Swiss Embassy, which is where he remains today, with the building surrounded by police. After he went into hiding, Huseynov was charged with tax evasion and abuse of power. He faced a sentence of up to 12 years in Azerbaijan before leaving the embassy for Switzerland in June 2015.